Dr. Oludamilola Olajide, MD is an oncologist specializing in breast cancer, gynecologic oncology, malignant hematology and general medical oncology, and an adjunct professor for the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC). She has worked with certified genetic counselors for the past 13 years.
was nominated for ABGC’s Spotlight program by Catherine Fine, CGC.
What made you want to become a doctor?
I grew up surrounded by many professional women. Specifically, my mother who is a physician along with many of her friends. My father is a pathologist and always made science sound so interesting (he still does, I love listening to him talk about his work!). With all of these influences, I had decided I was going to be a doctor by the time I got to high school.
Why did you choose oncology (and breast oncology) as your specialty?
My interest in oncology developed during my Internal Medicine training. My first assigned patient on my first day of internship was a young woman with leukemia. Caring for her those first couple weeks I was on service left an indelible imprint on my mind and I wanted to learn more about cancer biology and management. I was drawn to breast oncology, specifically, because it is such a prevalent malignancy in women and disproportionately adversely impacts African American women which, for me, is very personal.
At what stage during your career did you become familiar with genetic counseling as a profession?
I became fully aware of what genetic counselors do during my Hematology and Oncology fellowship training at UNC. In my training, genetic counselors were an integral part of the multidisciplinary team and participated in our tumor boards.
What value does genetic counseling bring to your work as an oncologist and the patients you treat?
As a community oncologist with a busy practice, it is so helpful to have a certified genetic counselor to determine which patients would benefit from genetic testing and, subsequently, determine which test is best for each individual. Our genetic counselors also review test results (positive or negative) with each patient. This leaves me with more time to address other aspects of the oncology consultation or follow up visit.
For other healthcare providers who may not be familiar working with a certified genetic counselor, what does that process look like in your practice?
At my institution, we have a dedicated genetic clinic that is run by certified genetic counselors. Patients are referred to our genetic clinic for diagnostic testing as well as post diagnosis counseling. Patients who happen to get tested by their surgeon, gynecologist or other clinician are also referred to the genetic clinic for counseling, if such test results demonstrate a pathogenic mutation.
Why is it important for you to work with a certified genetic counselor when serving your patients?
It is imperative to work with genetic counselors who are properly trained. As more people begin to utilize direct-to-consumer DNA testing, having professionals who can help individuals sort through test results and guide the use of certified assays can make a significant difference in the lives of individuals and families who could be impacted by these genetic test results for generations.
What has surprised you the most about working with certified genetic counselors?
I have not been surprised so much as I have been really happy with the level of knowledge our genetic counselors have about various pathogenic gene mutations. I have learned quite a bit about some of the more esoteric genes from the genetic counselors I work with. This in turn has broadened the knowledge base I have to draw from when educating and counseling my patients.
ABGC Spotlight is a monthly series that features Diplomates, healthcare professionals and students sharing their unique experiences with genetic counseling.